Content Warning: Rape
In November 2014, two sisters, both non-Hopkins students, arrived at an SAE party that was invite-only for men but open to women. The older sister Maria had come to spend time with Ivan Booth, a sophomore at the time. Around midnight, the youngest sister Gabriela, who was 16 years old at the time, was raped in the bathroom by Chaz Haggins (Gabriela accused another man, Ethan Turner, as well, but only Haggins was convicted; both Haggins and Turner were non-affiliates). A junior went into the bathroom and saw Gabriela. He helped her up and guided her up the stairs and retrieved her sister and Ivan Booth. A graduate student who was not a member of SAE but was renting a room in the house, called the police.
A new book, “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” features an entire chapter on the Johns Hopkins University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) and the rape that occurred during a party in November 2014. The author, journalist John Hechinger, published the book in September 2017 and reached out to and included commentary by the victim. “True Gentlemen” reveals the events and aftermath of an incident that was subject to intense discussion and outrage, both at the rape and the punishment SAE incurred.
The university and student response to the rape emphasized the fact that the two assailants were non-affiliates who were not personally invited to the party. However, as Hechinger reveals, Booth had invited Haggins, who brought along Turner as a guest. Haggins was no stranger to SAE: he had often DJ'ed in the fraternity's basement prior to the events of November 2, 2014.
Booth, then the social chairman of SAE, told detectives that no African Americans had been invited to the party, even though both Haggins and Turner are Black. Booth said that he thought he saw a Black man sneak into the party. When confronted by the detectives with the fact that he had in fact invited Haggins, Booth claimed that his statement was technically correct as he did not give Haggins a physical invitation. During the trial, the prosecution called on both the junior who helped Gabriela and the graduate student who called the police to give testimony but not Booth; even though he was the social chairman, it was clear he would not be of much help.
According to Matthew Fraling, the defense attorney, only the graduate student offered wholehearted cooperation with the investigation. Fraling said that he doubted fraternity members would have called the police if Pearlman did not. The Hopkins SAE chapter “circled the wagons,” opting to protect themselves and their reputation above all else.
Hopkins suspended the chapter for one year for providing alcohol to minors and for failing to control their party, yet the members ignored the suspension, continuing to host events until the administration terminated the chapter’s recognition in April 2015. Yet SAE allegedly continued to recruit and hold parties underground, despite the administrative action.
The chapter specifically calls out The Johns Hopkins News-Letter editorial board, then headed by Co-Editors-in-Chief Jack Bartholet and Melanie Levine, for rallying around the SAE brothers and defending the fraternity’s honor. The newspaper portrayed the event as two men unbeknownst to the fraternity sneaking into the party and raping a woman, obscuring the real situation: that Haggins and Tuner, very friendly and familiar with SAE, committed a crime facilitated by the party’s environment. The trope of Black non-affiliates creeping their way into innocent Hopkins communities was repeated ad nauseam in press releases, editorials, and social media posts (see this piece from 2012 that discusses the trope)
The News-Letter’s March 2015 editorial calls the one-year suspension of SAE “draconian” and “absurd on its face,” praising the brothers for calling the police and working with law enforcement. In reality, the brothers, with the exception of the junior who helped Gabriela, did neither of these things. The article defends SAE by emphasizing the misinformation that Haggins and Turner were strangers. The knee-jerk response to defend Hopkins students and fraternities above all else took precedence over truth and common decency.
The events surrounding the rape also sheds light on the misogynist environment in SAE, nicknamed “Sexual Assault Expected.” Hechinger investigates the social media accounts of the fraternity brothers, especially Booth’s. Posts such as “Ass and Titties. Ass and Titties. Ass and Titties,” “Beer, Bud, Box, Bitches,” and “Pussy always being the subject. In any cases.” illustrate the brothers’ discussion of women.
Just prior to the November 2014 rape, former SAE president Dylan Moses was confronted in a public post in the “Hopkins Feminists” Facebook group. Moses denied misogyny being a problem and told women “shame on you” who confronted him. Moses also shared a video in the group talking about “Rape Hysteria” on college campuses, which denied the existence of a rape problem on college campuses. Social media was used as a tool for SAE brothers to both express misogyny and outright deny that misogyny is a problem on college campuses.
The environment in SAE before the rape largely disregarded and disrespected women and trivialized rape. The fraternity nor Hopkins Greek life at large have addressed, either publicly or privately, this harmful environment and the shameful campus response to the rape. Hopkins Greek Life remains primed to repeat the mistakes and crimes of the recent past.
As a collective body, Hopkins acted so shamefully as to merit an entire chapter in a book analyzing our behavior and response to a rape.
Currently, Gabriela is spending a lot of time in the gym and is practicing pull-ups, running for miles, and physical training in order to fulfill her dream of becoming a paratrooper. She loves travel and hopes to travel extensively in the future. According to Gabriela, “[travel and adventure] will guide my life in the right direction” and give her strength.
Ivan Booth, Dylan Moses, and Jack Bartholet did not respond to requests for comment.
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